Lizabé Lambrechts & Schalk Van der Merwe.

Ghosts of the Popular: The Hidden Years Music Archive and the Interstices of South African Popular Music History.
Special Issue of Journal of Popular Culture, Ertuğ Altınay and Olivera Jokic (eds.).

The Hidden Years Music Archive, one of the biggest popular music archives in South Africa, holds alternative popular music from the mid-1960s to the early-2000s; music of musicians from southern Africa who were, for political and commercial reasons, not recorded by mainstream record companies and did not receive radio airtime on the state-controlled and censored South African Broadcasting Corporation. Nevertheless, these musicians managed to attract large followings at concerts, clubs and festivals. 

Constituted outside contemporary official or national music projects, the archive does not represent a canon of the most prominent musicians of the time, but weaves together the lived experiences of more peripheral popular music artists during the height and demise of apartheid.  These musicians, from different racial, class and ethno-cultural backgrounds, regularly performed together in shared public spaces that defied the apartheid laws of the time. The collection of more than 10 tons of material, including many hours of live recordings, photographs, posters, and other materials, documents diverse musical styles ranging from urban folk to township jazz, country rock to maskanda and traditional music. This diversity imposes a perspective of multiple agents from diverging social backgrounds drawn into shared popular cultural practices at a critical historical juncture despite opposing socio-political forces. Narratives on mainstream (and similarly censored) popular South African music releases of the time are silent about this history. The Hidden Years Music Archive haunts the memory of South African popular music historiography. 

Theoretically, this archive could broaden the notion of what is considered ‘popular’, offering as it does intimate glimpses into how people ‘actualize(d) alternative trajectories of living’, (Middleton and Brown, 2008), thereby shaping contemporary and future imaginings of this period. This article seeks to explore the ways in which this unorthodox archive challenges our understanding of popular culture under apartheid.  


Lizabé Lambrechts.

The becoming of an archive: Perspectives on a music archive and the limits of institutionality. Social Dynamics.

The call on South African music departments to critically engage with their curricula in order to reflect the broader music landscape wherein they function has been ongoing for the past 40 years. While some departments did engage in strategies to transform their curricula, various scholars have pointed out that most of these institutions have to some extent remained fixed within conservative syllabi and ideological practices conceived to serve the previous dispensation. It is within this field of discursive engagement and political actions directed towards change that archives can play an important role in decolonising higher education institutions. While recognising that archives work to a slower historical beat than what is currently (often militantly) demanded in debates on decolonisation in South African universities, this article wishes to argue that this temporal differential is important inn terms of long-term institutional and curricular reform. This article will consider these questions with particular reference to the Documentation Centre for Music (DOMUS), an archive-centred music research project in the Music Department at the University of Stellenbosch. This article will posit that DOMUS’s collection practices and projects may serve as examples of active and radical strategies with the potential to affect change within conservative institutional spaces. 

Lizabé Lambrechts & Jeremy Taylor.

They called me the “Ag Pleez Deddy” man: On the be(longing) of Jeremy Taylor. SAMUS: South African Music Studies, vol. 39: 44-87

Jeremy Taylor, known for his work as a satirist, songwriter and political commentator in South Africa and England, currently resides in the small rural town of Gizeux, France. Although widely recognised for
his song ‘Ag Pleez Deddy’, Taylor is also responsible for composing the original music for the musical revue, Wait a Minim, and various other songs including ‘Piece of Ground’ that was recorded by Miriam Makeba in 1966. Arriving in South Africa in 1959, Taylor has had a unique vantage point from which to view the growth and development of South African folk music. In this interview, we explore Taylor’s musical career and reflect on his life and experiences of apartheid South Africa. The interview has been edited, annotated, and augmented with unpublished material from the Jeremy Taylor collection in the Hidden Years Music Archive. This archive is rich in newspaper clippings, texts, music manuscripts and photographs and is held by the Documentation Centre for Music, Stellenbosch University 


Aiden Erasmus.

A Sinister Resonance”. 2018. Canadian Review of Comparative Literature / Revue Canadienne de Littérature Comparée, vol. 45(4): 585-596.

This article begins with three events concerned with the presence of absence, and what will be termed a sinister resonance. In 1978, during an inquest into the death of Lungile Tabalaza – a young student activist who “fell” from the fifth-floor window of the Sanlam Building in Port Elizabeth while being held in custody by the South African Security Police for robbery and arson – co-accused Mabuli Jali was at the centre of a debate around whether his testimony could be corroborated by the affidavit of the doctor who examined him, after he had been allegedly assaulted by the authorities. A session of cross-questioning began, and while Jali struggled to respond in Afrikaans (his lack of fluency in the language was later used to render his testimony inadmissible to the court), the discussion shifted to the difference between a criminal trial and an inquest. The attorney representing the Tabalaza family asked the court whether “there was such a thing as cross-examination in an inquest” and, citing the case of Ahmed Timol, who had met a similar death, he noted that “at an inquest there is no accused person and even if there is a suspected person, he may be absent and not represented and he should not be prejudiced as may be the case in a criminal trial by his silence

Lizabé Lambrechts.

Letting the Tape Run: The creation and preservation of the Hidden Years Music Archive. South African Journal of Cultural History, vol. 32(2): 1-23

This article explores the history of a unique South African popular music archive, the Hidden Years Music Archive, collected by David Marks, the director of the 3rd Ear Music Company. The 3rd Ear Music Company was established in 1967 as an independent record label to record, promote and produce music that was not considered commercially viable, or seen as too political by the major record companies and the State controlled broadcasting corporation. Through his work as a sound engineer and the director of the 3rd Ear Music Company, Marks amassed a collection of material that documents South African music from the mid-1960s to the early 2000s. In 1990 Marks formed the Hidden Years Music Archive Project to safeguard and preserve the material he collected. However, a lack of sustained funding hindered Marks from establishing the infrastructure needed to preserve the archive, and in 2013 he donated the archive to the Documentation Centre for Music (DOMUS), at Stellenbosch University. Taking the archive as its object of study, this article considers the history of the Hidden Years Music Archive through exploring the recording and collecting strategies of its collector, the archival systems Marks employed and the concept of archival value in relation to changing historical and socio-political contexts. Understanding these systems, strategies and contexts will not only provide insights into how collections such as the Hidden Years could be preserved, but it will also illustrate the role that archivists and archives play in framing and producing knowledge .


Lizabé Lambrechts.

Performing the Aporias of the Archive: Towards a Future for South African Music Archives. Historia, vol. 61(1): 132-154

National memory is continuously contested in South Africa and archives and museums are often called upon to store objects or material remnants of similarly contested pasts or histories. In addition, these institutions may already have collections that could be seen as contentious. If we consider these institutions as places where history is produced, what should be done with these objects and collections in a democratic country? This article provides a critical enquiry into the systems through which these objects are produced/recorded, appraised, catalogued and preserved as one methodology through which we can engage more fully with how these resources can be mobilised in the present. As a case study, the article will look at the International Library of African Music (ILAM), arguably one of the most important music archives in South Africa. The largest portion of ILAM’s holdings comprises field recordings collected by Hugh Tracey, a scholar who is both celebrated and contested. This paper proposes that through engaging with the processes and ambivalence inherent in Hugh Tracey’s recording and classification methods, ILAM has the capacity to provide critical and nuanced insight into one of the most important collections of music in southern-Africa. 


Santie De Jongh.

“Armed with a light bulb at the end of a cord: the ten-year journey of DOMUS.” Fontes Artis Musicae, vol. 62(3): 212–221

The Documentation Centre for Music (DOMUS) at Stellenbosch University was created in n2005 as a research project to preserve and make accessible South African music collections for research. Starting with 20 collections, DOMUS currently holds almost 70 music and documentary collections of South African composers, performing artists, musicologists and music institutions. 2015 marks the ten year anniversary of DOMUS. By documenting acquisitions and activities, this paper gives an overview of DOMUS during its ten years of existence. 

Michael Drewett.

Shifty Records in apartheid South Africa: innovations in independent record company resistance. Journal of South African Musicology (SAMUS), vol. 34/35

In 1980s South Africa the profit-making motives and generally cumbersome nature of major record companies limited their ability to release music which seriously criticised apartheid (especially in light of the censorship practices of the SABC and, to a lesser extent, direct state intervention). However, independent record companies had the potential to resist these forces given the way they were able to operate in a more innovative way than the majors because of their more immediate modus operandi. Certainly, the operation of independent record company Shifty Records varied significantly from the majors. Shifty’s musicians were given substantial freedom with respect to the production of their material while Shifty Records made use of a number of strategies which made it possible for the company to operate within a very restrictive and censorial environment. These included securing foreign funding, using a mobile studio, putting together innovative compilation albums and supporting the alternative Afrikaans Voëlvry tour. This enabled Shifty to record a variety of musicians who otherwise would not have been recorded. This paper explores the development of Shifty Records and how it positioned itself as a resistant independent record company in opposition to both the majors and the state.

Lizabé Lambrechts.

The house where history ended up: Packing up the Ben Segal Collection. Fontes Artis Musicae, Special Topics issue on Archives as Evidence vol. 62(3): 166-182

Archives are subject to various processes of collection and selection that takes place before and after a collection has been donated to an archival institution. However, the processes of packing donated material are rarely discussed in archival discourse, even though it plays an integral part in forming the archive that is eventually presented – cleaned, sorted and catalogued, to the researcher. Taking its cue from recent calls for an ethnographic approach to studying archives, not only as places housing information but also as places worthy of interrogation, this article reflects on the processes of archive making and the experience of inspecting and collecting the Ben Segal archive, an archive of significant importance to South African Folk Music studies.

Tuulikki Pietilä.

Continuities in Patronage Arrangements. In: Contracts, Patronage and Mediation. Pop Music, Culture and Identity. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

This book studies the long-term developments in the South African recording industry and adds to the existing literature an understanding of the prevalence of informal negotiations over rights, rewards and power in the recording industry. It argues that patronage features often infiltrate the contractual relationships in the industry.


Michael Drewett.

Exploring ‘space’ in censorship battles: the case of popular musicians in 1980s South Africa. South African Review of Sociology, vol. 45(1): 3-26.

A part of the apartheid state’s attempt to maintain hegemony in South Africa was through censorship. The terrain of popular music was no exception. This paper considers popular music censorship by means of the metaphor of space as both a real and imagined area of contest. It is argued that censorship involved contests over the use of space, and those involved in the contest sought to reposition themselves according to the most suitable strategies available to them. Influenced particularly by the work of Pierre Bourdieu, the analysis of contest posited in this paper emphasizes that agency is possible, even in contexts of severe repression. Throughout the apartheid era some musicians engaged in instances of resistance within the context of social movements to devise means of overcoming censorship and making themselves heard. Despite apartheid censorship, creative and meaningful spaces of resistance were discovered and successfully manipulated.


Dave Dargie.

The Xhosa umrhubhe mouthbow: an extraordinary musical instrument. African Music: Journal of the International Library of African Music, vol. 9(1). DOI: https://doi.org/10.21504/amj.v9i1.1757

In the late 1970s a vinyl LP disc was published with recordings by David Marks of the Mpondo Xhosa musician Madosini Manqina [CD track 1]. The disc included several recordings of an unnamed musical instrument, referred to by Marks on the record sleeve as a ‘home-made Jew’s harp’. The music produced by this instrument was a two-part overlapping polyphony, like a wind instrument accompanied by an overtone instrument – a musical bow of some sort. When I began work at the Catholic Lumko Pastoral Institute, situated then at old Lumko Mission near Lady Frere in the rural Thembu Xhosa area, I set about trying to find the instrument, to see if anyone in that area could play it. The most likely candidate was umrhubhe, a small musical bow which sounded like the accompanying instrument on the recordings. Many girls and young women still played umrhubhe in that area at that time – one could sometimes see a young woman carrying umrhubhe wedged onto herhead-dress. I took a tape copy of the Madosini recordings, and played them for people, to find out if they knew what it was. “Umrhubhe nomlozi” I was told: umrhubhe with whistling. In time I found several women who could perform umrhubhe nomlozi, some who lived in Ngqoko Village, two kilometres from Lumko, and others further afield: hence this article.

Michael Drewett.

The Road from Crisis to Catharsis in the Songs of Roger Lucey. International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, vol. 42(2)

In the late 1970s and early 1980s South African protest singer Roger Lucey composed and performed songs which were critical of the apartheid government. By using legislation and state security to impose threats, the apartheid state was able to apply pressure to all areas of production, promotion and distribution of Lucey’s message and thereby effectively silence him. With the end of apartheid and the admission of the police that they had silenced Lucey’s career, Lucey once again began to compose and perform music. This paper considers Lucey’s lyrical journey through these difficulties by means of the metaphor of the ‘road’ to which he turned in his songwriting throughout his career.


Ingrid Byerly.

Decomposing Apartheid: Things come together. In, Composing Apartheid: Music for and against apartheid, Grant Olwage (ed). Wits University Press

The dual terms of Composing Apartheid combine in a double act: primarily, the book explores facets of the musical make-up of apartheid, but simultaneously, and more broadly, it reveals how, through this cultural composition, apartheid itself was variously made.

Michael Drewett

Developing a retro brand community: Re‐releasing and marketing anti‐apartheid protest music in post‐apartheid South Africa. Consumption Markets & Culture, vol.11(4):287-305.

1980s South Africa was a constrained context within which to produce protest music. Apartheid censorship prevented protest music from reaching a mass market. This was an especially dire situation for white protest musicians who (unlike black musicians) were restricted by a small potential audience and also limited by the cultural boycott, precluding the possibility of an international audience. In the post‐apartheid era some of these earlier protest recordings have been re‐released by independent labels hoping to profit from the recordings but also in search of broader audiences for this important aspect of South Africa’s musical heritage. Yet it has been difficult to do more than market to “retro brand communities” of former fans. This paper considers marketing strategies used to promote re‐releases of anti‐apartheid protest songs, given the peculiarities of the convergence of retro time and space with present spatial dynamics, in a society willing to forget its musical heritage.


Michael Drewett.

2005. Stop this Filth: The Censorship of Roger Lucey’s Music in Apartheid South Africa. Journal of South African Musicology (SAMUS), vol 25(1): 53-70

In the late 1970s South African protest singer Roger Lucey composed and performed songs which were critical of the apartheid government. When his music came to the attention of the South African Police, they decided to intervene. By using legislation to shape ideas and state security to impose threats, the apartheid state was able to apply pressure to all areas of production, promotion and distribution of Lucey’s message and thereby effectively silence him. This paper considers Lucey’s story and his message, the mechanisms used to silence him, and the implications thereof for a deeper understanding of how the censorship of music operated in apartheid South Africa. It is argued that in such a context censorship involves both the administrative measures taken to silence counter-hegemonic messages and repressive mechanisms used to back these up.


Ingrid Byerly.

Mirror, Mediator, and Prophet: The Music Indaba of Late-Apartheid South Africa. Ethnomusicology, vol.42(1):1-44

This article explores a movement of creative initiative, from 1960 to 1990, that greatly influenced the course of history in South Africa. 

Gary Baines.

Catalyst or Detonator? Local Music Quotas and the Current South African Music ‘Explosion’, Social Dynamics, vol. 24(1): 66-87. DOI: 10.1080/02533959808458641

A number of commentators have recently claimed that South African music has come of age. The quality of local music is said to be improving and the quantity increasing. However, this is not the first time that there has been talk of a music ‘explosion’. The phrase was also bandied about during the 1980s.